Boogeyman by Janice D. Soderling


Little girl, are you afraid
of the sharp-fingered branch shadows
reaching through the window,
stroking your moonlit face,
your long, dewy lashes,
your rosebud lips,
your soft hair flowing over the pillow like water?

This is only practice fear, dear child.
A warm-up, a drill, a dry run.
Preparation for the real deal.
There are worse things waiting.

An empty bus approaches,
wheezes to a halt.
The tall man emerges from the umbra of the fig tree,
clambers aboard behind you,
He settles himself close by,
one immobile hand resting at his crotch.
The other rhythmically strokes his thigh
and he stares, not at you,
but at your reflection in the window.
You glance around
dry-mouthed, anxious,
look away.

The candy wrappers on the dirty floor say nothing.
The twin rows of vacant seats
—smeared, torn, sticky—
watch carefully,
waiting for the stop where you will step off,
hardly daring to breathe.

Be brave, child. Sleep now.
There are worse things waiting.

by Janice D. Soderling

Editor’s Note: The dread in this poem builds slowly and surely, until peak horror manifests with the personification of used candy wrappers. The following lines ease the reader back down, but only slightly, because fear isn’t easy to forget.


2 responses to “Boogeyman by Janice D. Soderling”

  1. Ed Hack Avatar
    Ed Hack

    Terrifying because so concrete, so evocative, so restrained in its choices.

  2. Gigi Avatar

    Referencing the scared little girl entry: my cousins and I would play a game sitting with your back to the window while the others described the horror looking at you. Little did they know, I knew that game, and the horror was my stepfather, but my mother didn’t believe it. Real horror comes when the boogyman lives in your house….. think about that little girl..

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